Pyongyang Diocese in North Korea was twinned with Banja Luka Diocese in Bosnia-Herzegovina amid fervent prayers for healing and reunification.
Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul is also the apostolic administrator of
Pyongyang Diocese even though religion is suppressed under the communist
He visited several Balkan churches on Jan. 6-16.
met Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo and Bishop Franjo Komarica of
Banja Luka in Bosnia-Herzegovina and signed a memorandum of
understanding to prepare a joint prayer for reunification and unity with
Banja Luka Diocese.
The Bosnian Diocese suffered a drastic
decrease in population during the civil war in 1992-1995 due to ethnic
cleansing and religious persecution. The Catholic population fell from
250,000 to 5,000. Now, led by Bishop Komarica, they are trying to
"Based on the situations that both dioceses are
suffering, we will make a joint prayer and pray it together," said
Father Achilleus Chung Se-teok, president of the Seoul archdiocesan
Committee for National Reconciliation.
For more than 65 years,
the Catholic Church in North Korea has been known as the "silent
church." Then dictator Kim Il-sung purged and executed leading church
figures after the communists took power in the north in 1948, severing
ties with the Vatican. Contact between North Korean Catholics and the
outside world remains rare.
The Korean Catholic Association has
previously claimed 3,000 Catholics exist in North Korea, while the
United Nations has estimated just 800. North Korea is home to fewer
Catholics than almost any country in the world. Diocesan statistics
suggest only Muslim-majority Afghanistan, the Maldives, Somalia and
Turkmenistan have smaller numbers of practicing Catholics.
few hundred Catholics believed to remain in North Korea today, most are
thought to be survivors from the pre-Communist era.
Archdiocese, which acts as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of
Pyongyang, believes Catholic activity in North Korea represents little
more than a show for foreigners amid criticism over religious
persecution. Pyongyang Diocese exists only on paper in North Korea.